Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Chaye Sara 5776
Friday Night Angels
In this week’s parashah we find a fascinating idea contained in the episode where Eliezer embarks on a mission to find a wife for his master, Avraham’s son Yitzchak. Upon arriving at the home of Lavan, the father of Rivka, it is said (Bereishis 24:31) vayomer bo beruch HaShem lamah saamod bachutz vianochi pinisi habayis umakom lagemalim, He said, “Come, O blessed of HaShem! Why should you stand outside when I have cleared the house, and place for the camels?” The Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 60:7) states that when Lavan told Eliezer, “come, O blessed of Hashem,” Eliezer departed from the status of being cursed and became blessed. Eliezer merited this promotion to being blessed because he had served Avraham faithfully.
The blessing of the wicked
What is amazing about this idea is that Lavan, who was a very wicked man, was the vehicle for such a great blessing. Yet, we should not be surprised by this, as later on in history, we find that Balaam, the archenemy of the Jewish People, sought to curse the Jewish People. HaShem did not let Balaam curse the Jewish People. Rather, HaShem coerced Balaam to bless the Jewish People. What is so phenomenal about this is that according to the Gemara and the Medrash, Balaam was either a son of Lavan or, according to some opinions, Balaam was Lavan himself. Thus, we see that the wicked are deprived of cursing the righteous and are required to bless them. The bad angel transforms to being a good angel to bless Yaakov Furthermore, the Shelah (Vayishlach Torah Ohr) writes that the angel of Esav was disguised in a physical form so that he could battle with Yaakov. When Yaakov was victorious over the angel, the bad side of the angel was covered over and he was transformed into a good angel. Once he was transformed to being good he was forced to answer Amen and bless Yaakov and concede the blessings that Yitzchak had proffered on Yaakov.
Why the wicked must bless the Jewish People
The Gemara (Shabbos 119b) states that two angels, one good and one bad, escort a person home on Friday night. When the person arrives home and finds his lamp burning, the table set and his bed made, the good angel declares, “may it be HaShem’s will that it should be this way the next Shabbos as well.” The bad angel is then forced to answer “Amen” against his will. The Ohr HaChaim (Bamidbar 23:24) and Rabbeinu Bachye (Ibid verse 10) write that Balaam was akin to the bad angel, and thus Balaam was forced to bless the Jewish People against his will. Thus, the idea that the wicked must bless us is not merely an anomaly. Rather, the blessing of the wicked is a function of our existence.
The Shabbos connection
Why is it that specifically on Friday night the good angel and the bad angel escort us home and determine whether we are deserving of blessing or, Heaven forbid, the opposite? It would appear that the reason for this is because the entire week we struggle with foreign influences and the forces of evil. It is well known that prior to one’s death the Evil Inclination makes one last powerful attempt to discourage a Jew from believing in HaShem. Similarly, with the onset of Shabbos the forces of evil make one last attempt to dissuade a Jew from testifying through Shabbos that HaShem created the world in six days. When the bad angel sees that the Jew has prepared properly for Shabbos, he has no choice but to concede defeat and then the Jew is given the opportunity to delight in the Holy Shabbos. HaShem should allow us to be cognizant of this weekly struggle and to do our utmost in preparing for Shabbos. When we prepare properly for Shabbos, HaShem will certainly allow the good angel to be victorious and this will facilitate our proper observance of Shabbos every week.
Shabbos in the Zemiros
Yom Zeh LiYisroel
Some opinions attribute the authorship of this Zemer to the Arizal.
שְׁמר נָא אוֹתָנוּ, בְּיוֹם זֶה וּבְכָל יוֹם, please remember us on this day and every day. Shabbos is the source of all blessing, so it follows that when HaShem remembers us on Shabbos, He will remember us every day of the week.
I received this story from a reader who heard it at the Parenting Expo hosted by Priority 1. Dr. Pelcovitz related the following incident:
Dr. Pelcovitz is familiar with an older Chassidic woman who is a widow with many children. This woman educates her children to perform various acts of kindness
It happened one day that the family of this widow heard of a blind woman who had moved into the building across the street. This blind woman was over sixty years old and had no family or friends to look after her. The widow struck up a relationship with the blind woman and one day the widow told her nine year old daughter, who was on the shy side, that her project is to read aloud to the blind woman twice a week.
The child did as her mother instructed her, and after a few months of the blind woman and the girl getting acquainted, the blind woman told the girl, “I want you to know that in two years I will be able to see!”
The girl was taken aback by this statement. “What do you mean?” she asked the blind woman.
“Well,” responded the blind woman, “I have been blind since birth, but the doctors informed me that my blindness was correctable. Unfortunately, until recently I could not afford the surgery. Soon, however, I will turn sixty five years old and I will collect Social Security, and then I will be able to save enough money to have the surgery performed.”
The girl did not respond to the woman’s declaration and she did not even mention the conversation to her mother.
The next day, this little shy girl who usually mumbled more than she talked, went from class to class mumbling, “I am collecting for a blind woman who requires surgery.”
The following day the girl returned to the blind woman and she announced, “Mrs. Schwartz, Mrs. Schwartz, I have the money!”
The girl then proceeded to take the blind woman to a religious ophthalmologist whose practice was around the corner. “I have eighty-three dollars for this blind woman who requires surgery so that she can see!” the girl exclaimed to the doctor. The doctor took the crumpled up envelope and smiled as he counted the eighty-three single dollar bills which he then placed in his pocket.
The doctor then proceeded to examine the woman and upon completing the examination, he looked at her and proclaimed, “Mrs. Schwartz, there is no reason for you to remain blind. I can take care of your condition.”
The doctor then scheduled Mrs. Schwartz for surgery and for the subsequent rehab which would allow her to learn how to see. The surgery was a success and Mrs. Schwartz regained her eyesight.
After some time, Mrs. Schwartz returned to her apartment. When Mrs. Schwartz went to the shy little girl’s mother to thank her for what her daughter had done, the widow was shocked, as the daughter had not disclosed her generous deed.
The girl’s mother was overjoyed at the good news, but she also felt that she had a debt to pay the doctor. The widow went to the doctor’s office and waited to see him. When the doctor let her in, the widow said, “I cannot thank you enough for what you did for this blind woman. How often does it happen that someone can help restore another person’s eyesight? I promise you that I will pay you back for this kindness that you have performed. It may take me ten or fifteen years, but I promise you that I will pay you back.”
The doctor smiled at the widow and said, “Please do not be concerned.” The doctor then reached into his pocket and pulled out the crumpled up envelope that contained the eighty-three dollar bills inside. “Whenever I am having a tough day,” the doctor said, “I reach into this pocket and I feel those eighty-three dollar bills and that restores my faith in people. That is all I need.”
Rav Meir Shapiro’s Mother Cries, “Meirel, Meirel”
The Gaon Rav Meir Shapiro, zt”l, the Rav of Lublin, once told a childhood story about his mother. “When I was a boy, my family was forced to move several times from house to house. We also moved from city to city. The constant moving did not disturb my mother’s equilibrium; only one thing would bother her – my bittul Torah!” “On one occasion, as we were again preparing to move, my mother had an idea. She contacted the melamed of the town to which we were moving, and arranged that he would meet me by the gate of the city. He would then be able to learn with me immediately when we arrived at the town.” “When we finally reached our destination, we searched and searched, but the melamed was not there. My mother sat down next to the wagon and cried for a long time. I tried to calm her down by saying, ‘Mommy, Mommy, why are you crying, I’ll learn tomorrow!’” “My mother answered, ‘Meirel, Meirel, You don’t yet know how to appreciate the meaning of bittul Torah of one day!” (Chaim Sheyeish Bahem) (www.Revach.net)
Shabbos in Halacha
לישה – Kneading
- Practical Applications
- Thickening or Loosening a Previously Mixed Cereal
We have discussed this previously.
- Adult Cereals
The melacha of kneading does not apply to ordinary breakfast cereals, i.e. cornflakes, Rice Krispies, Cheerios that do not bond when mixed with milk. (When crushed, however, these cereals do bond and are subject to the prohibition of kneading).
Bran cereals, oatmeal, farina and similar cereals that bond together are subject to the melacha of kneading.
Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Chaye Sara 5776
Have a Wonderful Shabbos!
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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New Stories Chaye Sara 5776
The Rabid Anti-Semite who became a Proud Jew
Co-founder of Hungary’s far-right, anti-Semitic party discovers he’s Jewish, forcing him to rethink his life and reconnect to his roots.
by Moira Schneider
How does one react on discovering at the age of 30 that one is Jewish? And how much more shattering would that revelation be if one is a raving anti-Semite?
For Csanád Szegedi, it was “the most traumatic and probably the worst day of my life.”
The guest speaker at Aish Hatorah South Africa’s gala dinner held in Johannesburg last week, Szegedi related how, as a 20-year-old university student in 2003, he had co-founded the far-right, anti-Semitic Jobbik Party; created concomitantly was a paramilitary organization, Hungarian Guards, which struck terror into the hearts of minorities, making him the embodiment of Hungarian Jewry’s worst fears.
By 2012 Jobbik had grown to be the second largest political party in Hungary. It was at this time that a political rival claimed to have documentary proof that Szegedi was in fact Jewish.
“To clarify the rumour, I sat down with my maternal grandmother to ascertain whether this was true,” he recalled through his colleague and translator Jonathan Megyeri. “My grandmother, who had survived Auschwitz and had a number tattooed on her arm, admitted she was once Jewish, but she had closed that chapter after the Shoah and was not Jewish anymore.
“She said my maternal grandfather was also Jewish and had worked in a forced labour camp during World War 11.”
There was no escaping the shocking truth: Csanád Szegedi was a Jew.
His inner turmoil was compounded by the fact that his appearance did not gel with his internalized image of Jews. “I cannot be Jewish,” he thought to himself. “I don’t have a big enough nose, a hunchback and two bags of money under my arms!”
Szegedi, who had never encountered a Jewish individual, decided he had to meet a “real Jew”, specifically from the religious community. “But I did not have many rabbi friends,” he notes in something of an understatement.
So he googled “Budapest rabbi” and found one who worked in outreach. At first the rabbi thought he was joking. “He suspected it was candid camera,” Szegedi remembers.
“He gave me an appointment and I went to see him. I thought he was going to throw me out. Much worse – he told me I should sit down and learn!”
With his wife, Szegedi was invited to synagogue where “I held the book upside down.” The enmity and hatred he encountered there was so great that the rabbi had to call a meeting, where Szegedi faced some aggressive questioning from the community.
“Despite all this, I thought I have no other way to choose but to walk the Jewish way.” He has since become kosher and Sabbath observant.
During his interrogation by the community, an old man had asked him “very softly” when he was going to be circumcised, something he refers to as “not my favourite part of Judaism.” A year later, after the procedure “which I never thought I’d undergo,” Szegedi received his first “aliyah” on Yom Kippur.
“It was the first time I had the opportunity to be called by my Jewish name,” he relates. “The old man came up to me and said: ‘I pardon you now.’”
In the light of these developments, have his mother and grandmother embraced their Judaism? “I have had long conversations with both,” he says, “and I must admit that neither was particularly happy with the outcome of events.
“My grandmother worked so hard for the past 50 years to try to assimilate and it seems she failed in the end. My mother is simply afraid of embracing her Jewish roots.”
While his grandmother passed away a year ago, Szegedi’s mother, who had no knowledge of Judaism, has accompanied him to synagogue on a few occasions and he has taken her on a visit to Israel.
The 33-year-old now says he is “not too proud” of the fact that he was second in command of the proto-Fascist party and for three-and-a-half years has been “extremely busy” attempting to atone for his past.
Amidst much emotional upheaval, the main issue engaging his mind was how to make up for “all the bad deeds” in his previous life. The Av Beth Din in Budapest suggested he go around to schools, college campuses and universities explaining the dangers of anti-Semitism, as well as address Jewish communities, all of which he has been doing for the past 18 months.
But has he done anything to eradicate anti-Semitism amongst the people he used to lead? The question is whether it is worthwhile to engage in conversation with someone who is anti-Semitic, especially where political interests are concerned, he retorts, seemingly sidestepping the issue.
Since Jobbik is the most popular party for those under 30, there is “something wrong with the education system if all the youngsters could be attracted to this type of nonsense.”
He is, however, not shirking his personal responsibility. “I am far from being satisfied that my lecturing does the job,” he concedes. “I try to do everything I can through my story to get my ideals out in public.”
To this end, Szegedi is writing a book and a documentary film is in the pipeline. “My story will get to more people and I could have more influence than I have,” he says.
While he has endured threats from his former party, these are “mainly over. I received many e-mails. Some people in the party are very aggressive, but this never led to any real danger.”
“What makes someone anti-Semitic?” he ponders, voicing the eternal question. “I had never met a Jewish person in my life.”
The only thing to do to fight anti-Semitism is to do more to be Jewish, be proud and definitely do not hide it.
Indeed, how then did he pick up on these ideas? Szegedi attributes this to having grown up amongst young people who were “very nationalistic.” In addition, “anti-Semitic literature became available in the 1990s and I did a lot of reading,” he says, fingering the explosion of the Internet. “You must be careful what young people access,” he warns.
“Anti-Semitism cannot be rational – it stems from frustration and depression. I did not meet the kind of monsters portrayed in anti-Semitic circles,” he says of his integration into the Budapest Jewish community.
“The only thing to do to fight anti-Semitism is to do more to be Jewish, be proud and definitely do not hide it,” he concludes.
While Szegedi’s wife is not Jewish “yet,” she has embraced his change in direction, describing it as a “new path we can only walk together.” Previously, she had been neutral to “a little bit positive” towards Jews, he explains.
“I firmly believe you cannot run a Jewish home without the support of the woman,” he states. “While I had my doubts along the way, she was always supportive and pushed me in the right direction.
“She put magnets on the fridge with the different blessings for food. She’s the one that dresses my kids up for Shabbos,” he says, referring to their two sons aged four and seven years. “We started this path together and I thank her very much.”
As for coping with the Hebrew prayers, Szegedi says although the language is logical, it is “not easy for the European mind. I could probably count on the fingers of one hand, the number of times my rabbi was happy with me!”
Sharing the “main message” of his life, Szegedi states: “Some of you may not consider yourselves observant, but I doubt that any of you went further away from God than I did.
“God has proven to me that he is not particularly looking for vengeance, but he’s also very (quick) to pardon.”
As to his three core reasons it is worthwhile being Jewish, he says: “You are Jewish anyway, so you might as well enjoy it! From a spiritual point of view, we belong to a nation that God watches over personally.
“Most importantly, we’re part of a family that, thanks to organizations like Aish HaTorah, welcomes back every lost member. Thank you, my South African family, for welcoming me.” (www.aish.com)